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faq for sources

the average person does not speak with reporters on a regular basis. you might find terms like “on-background” or “off-the-record” confusing, or have questions about how the reporting process works. i created this guide to provide answers to some of the most common questions i get from sources so that you can make an informed decision to speak with me. (credit for this idea goes to my former colleague, louise matsakis, who has a lovely source guide on her personal website.)

please note that this document reflects my personal preferences—i.e. not that of other journalists—in the most general sense. each source-reporter relationship is unique and could differ from this depending on the circumstances. 

i want to share something with you, but i would prefer my name is kept out of it. is that alright?

i am happy to grant sources anonymity in certain situations, but it depends on the circumstance. for instance, if you have important or interesting information to share about your current or former employer, but fear you will face retaliation for speaking out, i would likely grant you anonymity. similarly, if you have sensitive information you would like to share and a valid reason for not wanting your name associated with it (e.g., it’s confidential, you signed a NDA, etc), let me know and we can find a way to communicate that works for you.

if you are comfortable sharing a piece of information, but do not want your name associated with it, you can ask to share it “on-background.” this typically means you are okay with me including the information in my reporting, but you do not want it published along with your name. if you want to go on-background, you need to ask first. then i can agree to keep your identity private.